It is known through documentary evidence that my great grandfather, Henry John Stokes, passed on the running of the Stokes & Sons business to two of his sons, Wilfrid and Walter. We have already seen the draft documents setting out the terms for this transfer which took place in 1921. The partnership of the two brothers was to last only two years as a notice in the London Gazette of 4th December 1923 advises of the dissolution of the partnership. At some point in that two year period Henry was clearly not happy with the way his two sons were operating the business and set out his concerns and advice in the following handwritten document. I have transcribed the whole to make it easier to read.
My Advice after lifelong experience especially bearing on Bridgend Business.
1. Don’t kill or smother business by a too quiet and sleepy futility. Put plenty of fire and ginger into it – Do plenty of advertising and plenty of good outdoor dressing – the more the better to attract customers. This has always been a democratic working class trade and district and always will remain so. A good pushing, rousing trade will pay you far better than haughty high class notions – Buck up!!
2. Don’t go for too high profits: high profits rarely make much money = moderate profits. Popular prices and a quick turnover is the surest way to make money. “A nimble ninepence is worth more than a slow shilling”. If once your customers get the notion that you are going for big profits, and that your goods are dearer than they need be, your business is doomed!! From 30 to 35% on men’s suits and overcoats, 25 to 30% on juveniles and youths and a 20 to 25% on working class goods is more than ample and will pay the best in the long term, giving satisfaction and turning your stock over quicker and better than higher rates of profit in a democratic district like Bridgend. Remember that 33% on returns is 50% on cash which is much too high for boys and youths clothing which you will soon find out!
3. Never let a customer go out unserved if at all possible, it creates a bad impression as well as a certain loss. Better in these days of high prices meet a customer in person rather than let them go out. And if the assistant cannot serve a customer make them appeal to you before leaving. Too many have been allowed to go out in this way perhaps never to return.
4. Go in for cash reform as early as possible at the desk. Everyone now is going to the till, a disastrous and ruinous policy as you may find out some day to your sorrow.
5. Don’t give credit more than possible and never on the instalment system and be careful to whom goods are sent out on appro!
6. When once the present difficulty is over and righted itself, always see that your wholesale purchases each month are much below your takings. Too heavy stocks are often the cause of heavy failures.
7. Don’t listen to every claptrap of the Shop Assistants Union and Tradesmen’s Association (which are practically one and the same in Bridgend) re closing hours etc. etc. Remember that many of them have their “Own axe to grind”. Within fair limits look after your own interests and study your customer’s convenience as well as theirs. it pays the best in the end.
Listen to an old man who has your highest and best interest in view. I feel very strongly on all these points and I know I am right. Attend to them and you will be on safe and strong grounds, ignore them and you may live to regret it.